Why Do We Have to Say Romance Matters?
The topic of this month is Romance Matters. I keep trying to tackle it in a way that’s fun and light and entertaining, but every time I start, I end up writing this angry screed about how women are made to feel ashamed of what they read, a phenomenon that makes my ears smoke. And then I delete everything because I don’t want to send a message that what’s going on here this month is anything less than awesome, and I don’t want to come charging in here on my big, feminist horse (her name is Betty, by the way, and she kicks ass) ranting about the fact that no one comes up to a man at a party and asks him how it feels to write trash.
So, I keep deleting everything and starting over, and I end up hauling myself onto Betty’s back again, chip on my shoulder and empowerment sword raised high, ready to Let It Be Known Far and Wide that no one should ever make you feel ashamed of what you read.
Crap. I did it again. Let me rear Betty up and stable her for a bit, and try to figure out why it is that I can’t come into this topicwithout going into a fit.
I think it’s because we have to say that romance matters. If I have to say out loud that romance matters, it means that the default supposition is that it doesn’t, and that’s where I lose my mind. Then I feel defensive, and I have to say why it matters, I have to explain that there are amazing writers out there telling meaningful stories about emotion and human nature and the meaning of life, and there are, but that isn’t why romance matters.
It matters because you like it. It matters because I like it. And that’s it.
To say “Romance Matters,” makes me feel like that I’m acknowledging and accepting that romance is somehow different from any other genre and that while we don’t have to say that Mystery Matters or Thrillers Matter or Literary Fiction Matters, we do have to say out loud that Romance Matters, because somewhere deep down, we’ve internalized and accepted this nonsense that, by default, it doesn’t. And then there’s the idea that it doesn’t matter because it’s written predominantly by women, predominantly for women, and women are made to feel like we don’t matter because misogyny is woven into the damn fabric of our culture and…
Well, hell. I’m on the horse again. How did that happen? Well, fine. Obviously there’s no way out of this but through, so let me raise my sword and throw this stupid chip off my shoulder and say this:
I reject the premise.
I reject the premise that romance doesn’t matter, and I reject the premise that anyone should be ashamed of what they read, ever. I reject the premise that fiction written for women is somehow lesser than any other kind of fiction, and I reject the premise that it needs defending.
Reading matters. Engaging in story matters. Living every minute of your life authentically and never being ashamed of who you are and what you like matters. What you’re doing, what you think, and who you are right now in this moment matters, and everything else, pardon my French, is of the bullshit.
I’m sorry. I apologize. There are going to be ninety-two other smart authors who are going to come out here this month and say amazing things about romance and why it matters and nothing I’m saying today should take anything away from any of them. I just want it said that romance matters no more or less than any story, and it matters for the same reason that any story matters; because engaging in story in any form feeds the soul.
It really is that simple.
And now I need to go feed my horse.
(Lucy March is another pen name of bestselling author Lani Diane Rich.)
Nan Reinhardt is an author who recognizes that a woman’s life doesn’t end at forty. For years, while editors loved her fiction, they kept insisting she make her heroines younger, and it was tough. I love her work, and have personally talked her into going out on her own and releasing her novels independently, because I believe it’s important that women who are still alive in this world, no matter what age they are, have the opportunity to read about women like them, women who are living vibrant, important lives and still engaging with romance, love and sex. Her books are releasing this fall, and they’re fantastic; I can’t recommend her enough. Like her Facebook page, and you’ll be the first to know when the books hit the market.
Questions for Lucy:
What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?
I’m not a keeper of things, generally. I’ve moved a lot in my adult life, and the consequence of that is that you have to throw things away. There is one crazy item in my house that I keep because it’s also made entirely of awesome. For my thirty-ninth birthday, Jennifer Crusie and my kids decorated a three-foot tall wooden angel, covering it with bright colors and polka dots and decoupaging it with the best quotes from reviews and readers. It’s wild. I love it. Not just because it’s bright and fancy and has polka dots, and not just because it’s got flattering things to say about me, but because it was made with such love, and to this day, it’s the biggest deal anyone has made over my birthday, ever. Every time I see it, it tells me how loved I am, and I will carry it with me, everywhere I go, until the day I die. And then, the kids get it and it’s their problem.
If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)
White Wine and Polka Dots. Sara Rue would play me, but mostly because I’ve always wanted to look like Sara Rue.
What is the best non-monetary gift you ever received?
Sorry to give the same answer to two questions, but it’s that crazy angel.
If you had to pick one romantic scene or couple to recommend to a first-time reader of YOUR books, which would it be? (Any picks for romance novels in general?)
I only have one book out as Lucy March, so for those books, it’d be the opening scene with Liv and Tobias from A Little Night Magic. For my Lani Diane Rich books, the scene with EJ and Luke after the wedding in A Little Ray of Sunshine. For readers of romance in general, it’s the confession scene between Tilda and Davy in Jennifer Crusie’s Faking It.
You are reading this essay at ReadARomanceMonth.com. Be sure to visit the About Read-A-Romance Month to learn more, or the Authors & Contributors page to see a list of all the great romance writers who are participating in celebrating the romance genre during the month of August. Also visit the Awesome Contests page to see how you can register each week to win “A Month of Romance” (31 books), e-readers, and even the Grand Central Grand Prize, an iPad mini. If you love romance, then this is the place to be!
Lucy is generously donating one copy of A LITTLE NIGHT MAGIC to U.S. reader (U.S. only, apologies to international readers.). U.S. readers, to enter, either leave a comment here or enter the weekly drawing on the contest page. Or both. (Only one entry per commenter per post, though – multiple comments on one essay does not give you more chances.) Comment entries must be posted by 11:59pm EST Aug 18 to be eligible, though winners will be announced the following week.
Lucy March is the pseudonym of NYT bestselling author Lani Diane Rich. She lives in Central New York with her husband and daughters, and teaches storytelling at Syracuse University. She also co-hosts the weekly storytelling podcast, StoryWonk Sunday, with her husband, Alastair Stephens.
Buy Lucy’s Books on Amazon or on Barnes & Noble